Superstudio was a group of architects (1966-1982) founded in Florence in 1966 by Adolfo Natalini and Cristiano Toraldo di Francia, who were joined, in the following years, by Gian Piero Frassinelli and Alessandro and Roberto Magris. Superstudio is placed within the broadest scope of Radical Architecture.
In the early 1960s, the movement spread at an international level thanks to the work of the British group of architects Archigram, the Austrians Hans Hollein and Walter Pichler, and the Italians Archizoom Associati, Ufo and Gianni Pettena. What their research had in common was a rethinking of architecture as a discipline, and of how it related to society: indeed, the radical criticism of the exponents of this movement toward Modernist architecture would pave the way for the subsequent developments of Postmodern style in architecture, design, urban planning and in the theoretical output. If Modernist architecture had based design on the inextricable binomial of form-function, the exponents of the Radical Architecture movement instead based their design on the presupposition that this fundament had exhausted its own raison d’être. These young architects responded to the rise of Pop Art, to the predominance of mass media in communication, and to the expansion of youth protest movements, and included instruments in their practices that they borrowed from other disciplines and genres, such as performance, film, urban intervention, collage and installation. Since its founding, Superstudio developed research of a critical and theoretical nature which would only seldom evolve into the realization of the concrete; the members of the group preferred to breathe life into a utopian vision, which would be very influential at an international level.
Superstudio channeled its ideas through collages and critical texts which were often published in the magazine “Casabella,” directed at the time by Alessandro Mendini, who in those days was also very close to the ideas championed by Radical Architecture. The works in the collection are an example of this: the technique is that of the collage, which involves the use of pre-existing images and materials assembled so as to produce a new image and unexpected logical connections. This way Superstudio upholds a line of ascendancy that reaches back to the Dada movement, when artists like John Heartfield, Raoul Hausmann and Hannah Höch turned collages and photomontages into instruments of political and social satire with which they criticized reality. The irony and political passion of the Dada artists had been juxtaposed by the oniric and surreal atmosphere that characterized the work – it too imagined more than actually realized – of the late eighteenth-century French Utopian architects: indeed, in Superstudio’s montages the iconic buildings and views of world architecture overlap the landscapes, natural elements and geometrical structures, giving rise to scenarios that seem to belong more to the realm of science fiction than to that of architectural and urban planning.
Monumento Continuo (“Continuous Monument”), which we find in the title of one the works exhibited, is an image at the center of numerous group works that began to be made in 1969; it is a sort of modular volume of infinite progression that seems to extend uninterruptedly, and that is articulated with no apparent practical function existing between nature and the buildings. Monumento Continuo represents Modernist functionalism taken to its extreme consequences and imagined as a grid of orthogonal lines that covers the planet, according to an abstract and unstoppable spatiality, hence, a sort of negative utopia (dystopia), a form of science fiction-like critique that underlies Rationalism.